Breaking the 1978 record for the world’s youngest chess champion, Hou Yifan, 16, bagged the title at the Women’s World Chess Championship in Antakya, Turkey. She bested previous female champion Maia Chiburdanidze of Georgia, 17. Hou also beat fellow Chinese Ruan Lufei.
Despite this victory for Hou Yifan, questions remain about why women do not play chess as well as men do. Two theories seem plausible. The first (suggested by male chess players) is that they tend to be more aggressive, and this appears to be true of Hou, who is said to have a very conservative playing style.
The second, according to the New York Times, â€œcited in at least one university study, is that the talent pool among women has not been big enough to produce many great players.â€ Children need exposure to any new endeavor to develop skill, whether that involves learning a physical sport like skiing or an intellectual one like chess.
There are likely many more sports one can think of that men typically excel in, such as race car driving (despite Danica Patrick). However, several fields once male-dominated (like the legal field) are today populated by equal numbers of men and women. One day, chess, too, may find a woman at the top, especially if Hou Yifan has anything to say about it.
Among the world’s male chess players, Garry Kasparov became the youngest champion at 22.
Meantime, top-ranking female chess player Judit Polgar of Hungary did not play in the Turkey championship. She previously ranked No. 8 among the world’s male and female chess players and does not compete in women’s tournaments.